In the final years of my teaching career, I made the decision to use the first day of school as a “Get to know Mrs. Dragoo.” Now, normally, the first day of school is usually spent getting to know each other, the rules, and the procedures. But here’s how I saw it: if you have a good understanding of me, then my rules and procedures would be much more readily understood and followed.
So I began every year with a little Powerpoint presentation of the Top 12 Things You Need to Know about Mrs. Dragoo. I had things like, “I’m a rule follower and perfectionist,” and “I like to joke around so try not to be offended,” but the one that always caused a commotion was, “I don’t trust you.” Which I followed with, “Kids lie, steal and cheat. Yes, you do.”
You might be surprised at how offended children will become when you tell them you don’t trust them. This is when I would be bombarded with, “No, I don’t. I’m a good kid.” This would, of course, lead to a lengthy conversation in which I game this example:
If you know that I have a hard and fast rule to have a pencil for my class (which I do), but realize when you get here that you don’t have one, and you see my own supply on my desk, even knowing that my things are off limits (which they are), would you still go get one or risk the consequence?
And that’s when it hits them: they really are liars, thieves, and cheaters. At this point, I would go on to explain that while those tendencies are “normal,” they wouldn’t be tolerated, and they wouldn’t stop me from loving each one of them.
Because I’m on a mission to show Jesus to these kids. And just like those kids, Jesus knows that I’m a sinner, flawed and prone to self-preservation, but that doesn’t stop him from correcting me or, above all, loving me.
Once the children know that they won’t be fooling me with their practiced “innocent” routine, it leads to a much more honest relationship in which they are allowed to be real, and so am I. Because we are sinners, but it’s important that we don’t enable each other to live in our sin.
And this is how I work to raise my own daughters, recognizing that they are sinners, but not enabling them to live in their sin. This is especially difficult for the younger children to recognize. When the time comes for correction, they most assuredly will take the route of immediate self-preservation, not considering the consequences. As we grow older, we finally come to understand that it is easier to take the one correction than to compound it with lies upon lies.
For example, my girls have a daily requirement to study. I’m very flexible about what that can be: math problems, spelling, handwriting, Bible study, or just about anything they can come up with. Everyday I ask them what they chose to study. Recently, I had the feeling that the little one hadn’t been completing her study time as faithfully as she should be, so when she told me that she had studied her Bible that day, I requested a more detailed version. What exactly had she studied?
Jonah was her answer, but she couldn’t remember a single detail from the book of Jonah. Red Flag. I explained that I needed to take care of a chore and that when I returned, I expected to hear more about Jonah’s life. When I came back to her a few moments later, she informed me that it had not been Jonah that she read about. In fact, it had been Moses. Very well, tell me about Moses. She put on her most “Matter of Fact” face and began to tell me all about how Moses had built a great big boat and filled it with lots of animals.
Unfortunately for her, I’ve read my Bible.
I instructed her to stop her informational session, looked directly into her big, blue eyes, and said, “This is your last chance to tell the truth. Did you study today?” Finally, the truth came out, as if I didn’t already know.
It’s no secret what-so-ever that John and I do not tolerate lying. The punishment will always be more severe if you lie to us. We feel that having an honest relationship is critical if we are to raise up trustworthy adults. We’re working on it, but we’re not there yet. Obviously.
I let her know that she would be receiving a consequence, not for her failure to study, but for her insistence to lie about it. Then I told her to meet me in my bedroom.
She was more than a little surprised to see me come in with her Bible in my hand. I explained to her that since she had apparently not been paying attention to her Bible stories, that she was now required to go back into her Bible to study Jonah, Moses, and Noah, you know, the guy with the boat. (Ge 6-9) Plus she had to use her Concordance to look up the word “liar” and see what the Bible said about that. She then had to write a report about everything she learned and where she found it.
And then she got her punishment.
I needed her to know that I care about her, and why it’s important to be honest with me. I needed her to realize that I already know when she’s hiding something from me, and it only puts a distance in our relationship. Just like when I try and keep my sin from Jesus. It’s pointless. He already knows. I’m not hurting anyone but myself, because the correction is coming. How much easier is it to acknowledge my sin and turn from it than to hide it and continue to turn to it?
It took her four days to get through the life of Moses, and everyday I got a report. Not exactly the circumstances I desired for her to have when studying her Bible, but I dare say she won’t confuse Moses and Noah ever again.
I have really great kids. They love Jesus, love us, love each other, and love others, but that doesn’t give me the false hope that they aren’t flawed and fallen sinners. Because they are. We all are. My job as their parent is to recognize their sinful nature, love them in spite of it, and work to teach them a better, more honorable way. They way of Jesus who says,
Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin. (Jn. 8:11)